Every single fantasy football season, a handful of big-name players drop dud/injury-filled seasons in our laps. While most of the time it is tough to predict these kinds of seasons, sometimes there are signs of risk, signs that outweigh the appeal/upside. But, what about after a player busts (even if busting due to injury)? When should you trust a player again, if ever? That next year?
The truth is, there is no real consistent formula for deciding what fantasy football players deserve second chances, but I can list some of last year’s biggest 2015 fantasy football busts, and together, maybe we can figure what players have the best shot of rebounding to elite-type fantasy football levels.
The following players are listed in order of biggest ceiling value from their currently-diminished value.
Josh Gordon (WR/Browns)
Josh Gordon was actually the first addition to my 2016 Bold Predictions list, and I added him to the 2016 list right around Week 2 or so (of last season). Despite SleeperU not being fully up and operational at that time, I wanted to get a jump on the 2016 list of names for you all, and Gordon was a totally forgotten man in even 2016 fantasy football dynasty startups. It was nuts. I scooped him up in WR3/4 territory in countless startup drafts last August/September, and to be quite honest, his current value (as of January 13th, 2016) is still stupid-low. You can acquire him via trade for what amounts to a low-end fantasy WR2, or even a high-end fantasy WR3. I can’t stress enough that going after him at value that matches his potential is not the way to go. Buy-low or you’re not maximizing the appeal and keeping the risk in the ‘who cares if it doesn’t workout’ zone. Read more on this on my 2016 Bold Predictions list, but I’ll leave you with this. For a bit of comparative value, if Josh Gordon were cut, let’s say, and dropped into an upcoming 2016 Rookie-only draft, I’d value him at around the 1.02 or 1.03. Crazy? Maybe, but keep in mind what I’m saying here. That’s where I value him, but clearly by the overwhelming doubt out there in fantasy leagues everywhere, the guy can be had at a much cheaper price, so one is nuts to even consider paying the value I just compared him in at. So, buy-low… 1.02 or 1.03 value isn’t buying low, that’s just where I see his value in hindsight come the end of the 2016 fantasy football season (if not higher).
Jordan Matthews (WR/PHI)
Like with Josh Gordon, I have this kid covered via our 2016 Bold Predictions, so check out my Jordan Matthews write-up on that list. Let’s just say at 5th- to 6th-round value in dynasty, and maybe 6/7 in some cases, there is a lot to like about this third-year breakout WR in Philly. In summary, Chip Kelly is gone, and he flat-out held Matthews down and limited his production. He and Zach Ertz should be in for a big 2016. Again, read more here.
Andrew Luck (QB/IND)
What a horrible year 2015 was for so many fantasy football players and owners. Honestly, we’ve never seen busts and injuries quite like we did last year, as over 60% of last year’s top 25 overall-ranked fantasy players busted (according to ADP data from August, 2015). Some busted due to injury, some just flat-out busted, and Luck was both. When he was on the field prior to his, he was not living up to expectations, tossing 12INTs to 13TDs in the first eight games of the season. Then, he got injured. So, why trust Luck in 2016? Easy. Value. The QB position is stacked in 2016, from Aaron Rodgers to Luck , from Brady to Brees (both still hanging on to elite numbers)… then toss in Cam Newton, Blake Bortles, Russell Wilson and maybe now Kirk Cousins, one can easily argue that waiting on a QB, until later rounds, is the smartest play. This topic can be argued two ways, and anyone that suggests you “have to take a QB late” is just set in their ways. There are no bad ways to build a fantasy team, and while you can land a Blake Bortles a handful of picks later than an Andrew Luck or Aaron Rodgers, or a Russell Wilson or Ben Roethlisberger even later than that, super-solid running back drafters might have just as good of a duo, if not better, going Luck and 5th-round RB vs. someone else’s 3rd-round RB and Russell Wilson. It’s all relative, folks, unless we’re talking about having to take a top 1-3 fantasy QB in the first- or second-round, and that’s just not going to be necessary in 2016, as the top 1-3QBs will drop further than ever in 2016 (at least they should).
DeMarco Murray (RB/Eagles)
Again, like with Andrew Luck above, or Josh Gordon up above him, concerns and risk are very much minimized given the current trade/draft value. Now, it’s important to mention that any January ADP data is raw and easily misleading, however, Murray is slotting in around the 4.05 to 5.05 range. That’s bargain value right there, especially once he dips into the 5th-round. Now, I do NOT anticipate that he will be a 5th-round come August, in fact, I think we will be lucky if he remains in the 4th-round come August/September. Until we see him slotting in the 3rd-round in early 2016 fantasy football mock drafts, Murray remains one of my favorite ‘go get’ players in existing dynasty leagues.
Jamaal Charles (RB/Chiefs)
Ok, so this is a dynasty buy because of the value, and his dynasty ADP is feeling like it’s hovering around low-end RB2-type value. That’s low-risk right there. He isn’t going to give you 3-4 years of elite play, but at least one (with the chance for another) is in the cards, and sometimes that kind of hidden value (top 4-7RB at late RB2-type value) is worth passing up on a dynasty-geared pick. A great dynasty owner/manager can draft both for the ‘now’ and the ‘future’, not just the future. As for his redraft ADP, it’s tough to know if he will be a 2nd-round pick or a late first-round pick (or third?). Much will depend on his progress (ACL surgery) this off-season, but all indications are that Charles will be ready to rumble in training camp, especially given that he is having some stem cell treatments.
Aaron Rodgers (QB/Packers)
His early, and we mean early, 2016 ADP is floating around the 3.07 to 5.04 range, which is a wide range to speak on. All I can say here is that Rodgers still has No. 1 overall fantasy upside, so even in the late third-round, he is a steal. That said, the quarterback pool is deep this coming year. Just like every fantasy football season, there is much debate on when one should take a QB, as the top 10 is stacked entering 2016. Still, no matter how deep the pool is, 3-4QBs will likely be a tier above the rest, so while grabbing one of those QBs in the second-round would be risky, or wasteful feeling, that won’t be necessary this coming fantasy season… that’s the point here… they are likely going to fall until the late third-round… if one or two of the top 1-4 fantasy QBs falls to the 4th- or 5th-rounds, it really makes taking a QB before others do not so wasteful. Again, you can argue this topic two ways, as mentioned above under Andrew Luck (see above for explanation).
Eddie Lacy (RB/Packers)
BUY & SELL?
This guy was a total bust in 2016. Total. He even smells like disappointment already for 2016, so act on this advice based on value and value alone. If he drops into the flex-like RB range value-wise, then take a stab no question. If he is going in the third-round range in any format, take a pass. He could gain some momentum this off-season via the coaching staff, who knows, but for now, I doubt we see 3rd-round value anytime soon, if ever (entering 2016 drafts that is)… so, my guess is Lacy will look more bargain than bust heading into 2016 at that flex-like value.
Zach Ertz (TE/PHI)
Carlos Hyde (RB/SF)
Randall Cobb (WR/GB)
Duke Johnson (RB/CLE)
Buck Allen (RB/BAL)
There are clearly a few other names worth mentioning here, but these are some of the top-doubted players heading into 2016, and most all are worth acquiring if the price is right, and it should be right in most leagues.